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Our history

Growing global employee representation over the span of decades

European Works Council (EWC)

In 2024, after the partial demerger of the Solvay Group and the formation of the Syensqo Group, Syensqo committed to maintaining and upholding the agreements previously established by the European Works Council.

Employee representation becomes law

On 22 September 1994, the European Commission introduced Council Directive 94/45/EC. The directive required companies in Europe with a certain number of employees to establish works councils consisting of employee representatives elected by their colleagues. For workers, the legislation meant that they had a legal right to have their voices heard in decisions that affect their working conditions.

The formation of the European Works Council and first years

With the support of the European Mine, Chemical, and Energy Workers Federation (EMCEF), a specially established negotiating body agreed on a contract with the management regarding employee representation. On 5 October 1995, the European Works Council (EWC) was founded, made up largely of trade union veterans and comprising all European countries in which the Group operated.

The contract included provisions to establish the Select Committee of the European Works Council and appointment of three members, which was expanded to four in 2009. Today, this structure is still in place. Amongst other duties, the Select Committee organizes and coordinates plenary assemblies between the EWC and senior management, of which the first plenary was held in the Eurovillage Hotel in Brussels.

The early years of the EWC largely focused on establishing trust and communication between both bodies, and asserting the workers’ right to be informed and consulted.

Establishing a strong social dialogue

Soon after the formation of the EWC, the council reached several key consensus points that set a strong tone for its future work.

Some of those consensus points included the agreement that workers in Portugal no longer had to pay for their own safety equipment, and the internet and email became accessible for all. At the EWC’s first joint seminar at Limelette Palace, several national groups also joined forces to form a union.
A real breakthrough in the collaboration between senior management and the EWC came in the 1996 following a fire at Düsseldorf airport, which sparked a discussion on banning PVC, then one of the Group’s main business pillars. The EWC and the management started a working group on Chlorine/PVC marking the birth of what is now known as the enlarged select committee. This working group challenged the request, and cemented the mutual trust and understanding between the two bodies that continues today.
Since then, four joint charters have been agreed, one of which focuses on sustainable development as a key element of our worldwide efforts to combat climate change and preserve the environment.